Tango Recession (8 nov 2008)

The past few months the tango scene in SF seems to be mirroring the economy as far as milongas are concerned. Almost across the board I'm seeing unusually light attendance. I've spoken with some people about it and we can't figure out exactly what is going on, although there is a tentative consensus on two possible factors. First, that it is indeed a byproduct of the economic crisis, and second, that perhaps the community is getting diluted from having too many options.

The tango community in the Bay Area has ebbed and flowed, growing and shrinking in waves (though generally progressing in the growth direction) but in the last year the number of events has spiked sharply upward. When I look at the calendar on Tango Mango I can't imagine how all the milongas and classes can sustain themselves, although perhaps that's not the point. Maybe the point is to see what ends up working and what doesn't (in the true spirit of a free market, I suppose). I think this is generally how it works in BsAs, where the community is larger but still can't ensure success for all of the numerous tango events going on. I have found that there it is always a back and forth and from week to week the hot venue often changes depending on the circumstances. Competition requires booking a popular act to draw the crowd. In the SF scene, that's a relative rarity. More often than not, there is no dance performance in the middle of a milonga nor live music. The only usual promotion comes from booking a guest dj. While that can affect the energy and flow, overall I think its ability to create the feeling of an "event" is limited. Certainly, the dj factor is not as overt a reason for coming as the promise of a show, and even a great dj can only do so much to combat the sense of sameness in a long running or familiar milonga.

The same can be said for classes. So many teachers, so many different styles. And yet, the menu is generally the same. How does teacher A attract students for his sacada workshop when teacher B ran that subject all last month? Even on the subject of style, though the differences can be fairly marked, the nature of the social dance and the lead and follow requirements necessitate that the distinctions are a matter of degree and not of kind. So it's not too difficult to feel burnt out after a while. And I guess that during this time of cold nights and (inter)national anxiety, it's understandable that people might choose to stay in and watch new episodes of Heroes rather than head out to a class or milonga and dish out precious bucks for more of the same old.

Qué lástima. But there are some exciting things on the horizon--not the least of which is the hope of a new direction for the country--and we'll see how that affects the tango scene.

Side note: I was attending David and Mariana's advanced class on election night, and though it was assumed there would be light attendance for obvious reasons, it turned out the opposite was true. Perhaps it was because of a shared nervousness that made many people need a distraction. At any rate, when the race was called for Obama there was a collective cheer, and at the end of the class David brought out a bottle of champagne which we all shared, each taking no more than a sip as there wasn't enough to go around. David commented that it was a shame there were no McCain supporters as it would have been nice to extend a hand in conciliation. We were all a happy, relieved blue, oh well. I've said it before, the SF Bay Area is probably one of two places I can live here in the states.


Tango ADD (12 oct 2008)

This past week I have had a peculiar difficulty focusing on my dance. I just can't seem to get into a serious mindset and so every dance ends up becoming this silly, goofy mess. I don't know why I'm in this state, if I'm just so bored with my dance or with the dance in general, or if I'm just mentally fried from concentrating on my form so much that something has broken down and I go the opposite way of dancing as sloppy and immature as I can. I suppose this is useful in its way, though. I explained my situation to Homer and he remarked that it was good to see that someone was finding a place for humor in tango. I have always thought of tango as being far more encompassing than the Discepolian "sad thought" or the generic "vertical expression..." so it's good to practice what I preach. Certainly, some of my favorite dancers have been exhibitors of humor in tango, from Omar Vega to Cappussi/Flores to Los Hermanos Macana. One has to make the important disclaimer that underlying all of their antics is a strong foundation in solid technique and a proper reverence for the culture and traditions. I have seen dancers who utilize humor in their performances but partially to disguise their technical flaws. And of course, there are those whose humor is unintended. Or in a social setting, those who dance with great joy but look--and I surmise, feel--like shit.

I don't mean to disparage anyone's approach but I tend to dislike (unintentional) sloppy dancing both as a dancer and an observer, so my recent predicament has me mildly concerned. Not the least of my worries is that my poor technique is carrying over to my partner and may be causing some bad habits on her part to compensate. One thing for sure is that I have been very lax in my discipline for some months now regarding the technique exercises and drills that I used to practice regularly. I think it's time I get back to that. Hopefully, that will help to sharpen my skills and focus, and also do something to shake off this general malaise and apathy I've been mired in. All week I had been planning to attend Nora's Saturday milonga in order to meet and study with Graciela Gonzalez but tonight I ultimately couldn't even find the wherewithal to leave the house. Pretty pathetic. So far it's been a totally wasted weekend but I still have a chance to catch her in the afternoon for a men's technique workshop so perhaps I'll meet her then.